11 September 2013

Minister views highs and lows of upland project

Minister for Environment Paul Wheelhouse (right) with Project Manager Graeme Dalby, discussing the efficacy of moorland management techniques on Langholm Moor.Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP visited the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project this week (Monday, September 9) to learn about moorland management and its relationship to rural socio-economic activity, and the conservation of both habitat and moorland bird numbers.

The Project is a partnership between Buccleuch Estates, Scottish Natural Heritage, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Natural England. The aim of the ten-year project, which is now entering its seventh year, is to demonstrate how moorland management for driven grouse shooting can be achieved in the presence of raptors. The plan has been to restore driven grouse shooting to the Langholm Moor and use this investment to help towards meeting the conservation objectives of the site.

From the outset the Project has chosen to demonstrate approaches and techniques of general relevance to upland management across Britain. The project has been visited by several hundred moorland managers, key decision makers and enthusiasts during its six years. There has been strong interest in innovative techniques such as diversionary feeding for the breeding hen harrier population, currently one of the most productive in the UK per nest, and the extensive habitat restoration which has been largely successful. The project is continuing to look into how and when it will achieve one of the key aims of the project, an economically sustainable harvest of grouse.

During his visit, Mr Wheelhouse met project staff and Directors before touring part of the moor and viewing examples of the management currently underway. Speaking after the visit, Project Manager, Graeme Dalby said:

“We are delighted that the Minister has visited Langholm. By seeing the work on the ground, the Minister has been able to link everything together and appreciate the whole moorland management picture.”

Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse said:

“Langholm Moor is an important project in demonstrating how red grouse shooting estates can co-exist alongside a healthy raptor population.

“While the research is still ongoing, it was very encouraging to hear evidence that the diversionary feeding of hen harriers has gone so well and I hope we can see this technique being adopted on other grouse moors throughout Scotland, informed by the findings of Langholm.

“It was also of great value to learn more about some of the other important aspects of the project, in particular the extensive habitat restoration, which will benefit a wide range of species, and to hear about the collaborative work of the partner organisations within the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project.”

END

Photocaption: Minister for Environment Paul Wheelhouse (right) with Project Manager Graeme Dalby, discussing the efficacy of moorland management techniques on Langholm Moor.


Notes:

The Langholm Moor Demonstration Project aims to demonstrate an effective means of resolving the raptor-grouse moor controversy by restoring grouse moor management to the Langholm Moor SPA/SSSI as a way of meeting the conservation objectives of the site. In particular we are:

  • demonstrating how to resolve conflicts between moorland management for raptors and red grouse
  • maintaining the hen harrier population as viable component of the SPA
  • extending and improving the heather moorland habitat beyond its state in 2002
  • improving grouse production such that grouse shooting again becomes viable enough to support moorland management

This site has become a model for modern, sustainable grouse moor management. The duration of the project is ten years, subject to review every three years.

The work programme comprises four elements:

  1. Habitat measures. Including heather burning, bracken control, heather restoration, blanket bog management, livestock management and goat control
  2. Control of predators that prey on grouse. Numbers of foxes, stoats and crows are being reduced, but no protected species will be killed
  3. Disease control.Medicated grit is used to combat the nematode worm Trichostrongylus which periodically decimates grouse stocks. More details of this technique can be found on theGWCT website.
  4. Diversionary feeding. Bought-in food is provided to breeding pairs of hen harriers to limit the numbers of grouse chicks they kill.

We will also consider creating alternative nesting and hunting habitat for hen harriers.

We employ a team of gamekeepers to undertake this work and they operate alongside shepherds and ecologists.

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust is an independent wildlife conservation charity which carries out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.

Scottish Natural Heritage is the government's adviser on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. Our role is to help everyone understand, value and enjoy Scotland's nature now and in the future. For more information, visit our website at www.snh.gov.uk. SNH media is also now on Twitter at twitter.com/SNH_Tweets

Natural England is the government’s independent adviser on the natural environment. Established in 2006 our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public. For more information visit www.naturalengland.org.uk and follow us on Twitter @NaturalEngland

The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity. In England and Wales, no: 207076. In Scotland, no: SC037654.

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